Fears of a second wave of coronavirus are growing after it was revealed the R rate has climbed above 1 in some parts of the UK.
The closely-studied reproduction rate tells us how quickly the virus is spreading across the country.
And now scientists at Cambridge University have said it is “very likely” that most regions in England are close to the point at which the virus begins to spread exponentially.
The data from the Cambridge MRC Biostatistics Unit found that four out of seven English regions have seen a rise in infections in recent weeks.
The south-east and the south-west now have an R rate above 1, meaning the infection is spreading in these areas.
The news comes hours after millions of people across northern England were told they face new lockdown restrictions, which ban separate households from meeting each other at home after a spike in Covid-19 cases.
The new rules impact people in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
The health secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC the increase in transmission was due to people visiting friends and relatives.
According to the scientific data, the R rate is 1.04 in the south-west and is 1.02 in the south-east showing a marked increase from two weeks ago.
The rate in the north-west and in London is estimated at 0.92 while the Yorkshire rate is 0.9.
The lowest rate is in the Midlands at 0.78.
The Cambridge model is only one model that feeds into SAGE’s official regional R rate estimate and is released weekly.
It estimates there are around 3,000 new infections daily – up from the current rolling daily average of 725.
Scientists also predict between 43 and 84 daily deaths by mid-August, slightly up from the seven-day rolling average at 66 deaths per day.
Matt Hancock said the figures showed a “second wave starting to roll across Europe”.
Speaking about the R rate in England, he said: “These figures are published by the statisticians and there will be another publication tomorrow.
“I’m not going to prejudge what the statisticians say as we need to do this properly.”
The new lockdown rules for the north came into force at midnight, within hours of the initial announcement.
The restrictions come nearly four weeks after restrictions were eased across England, allowing people to meet indoors for the first time since late March.